Student Led Iconography Workshops at Southwest

‘Just like the way the brush flows across the surface, so does the spirit flow.’

Over two weeks in June 2020, Seminary of the Southwest hosted a student-led iconography workshop – a follow-up to a similar effort held at the end of January before the spring semester began. A group of seminary students gathered each day to reflect upon and create iconography artwork, which is the art of making icons or visual spiritual representations that are often seen in church buildings.

Alyssa Stebbing, MDiv, had the idea of putting these workshops together. She said her classmates had asked her to hold this workshop because they were interested in iconography. Leadership at Southwest asked her to lead a pilot class first, but after the January event, there was interest in more workshops.

The longer, more in-depth event in June was complicated by restrictions due to the pandemic, but students took creative advantage of the many open and outdoor spaces on the campus of Southwest.

“We started outside, only two at each end of a 6′ table, masks on at all times. The heat and humidity made some stages particularly difficult, especially the gilding,” Stebbing said about their latest workshop. “But they were so engrossed in the process, the liturgy of it, and becoming connected with the Archangel Michael, that we weathered those frustrations well.”

Toni Alvarez, MDiv middler, attended this workshop painting the icon of Holy Michael. “In this time of pandemic and of the struggle against police brutality it has felt appropriate to contemplate the Warleader of the Hosts of Heaven. May Holy Michael protect you, and intercede for you,” Alvarez said.

“When painting an icon you don’t paint shadows yet you still see them,” Sadie Koppelberger, MDiv middler, noticed. “I wonder if that is how God sees us, having not made the shadows and the evil but seeing and mourning it nonetheless. May we be moving towards the brightness of God.”

“One of the greatest gifts that I received from participating in the icon workshop was learning about the deeper intentionality behind the practice. Each color, line, and layer not only symbolize an aspect of the Divine mystery, but is also an invitation into the unfolding mystery itself. I found in myself a desire to be a part of the Divine unfolding, to be present to what might be revealed to me through the process,” Megan Allen, a senior MDiv student, said.

Ashley Colley, MDiv middler, attended both the January and June sessions of the workshops. “The delicate process demands focus but just like the way the brush flows across the surface, so does the spirit flow,” Colley said. “It’s amazing that something so small can make such a huge impact on the whole image, and I guess that is my takeaway today. Details matter, and even if the moves we make in life seem small they can really make all the difference. Seems like a relief to me these days.”